The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will look at whether two desert flowers and a parasitic bee deserve protections under the Endangered Species Act.
(CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday it will spend the next 12 months collecting scientific and commercial data to evaluate petitions submitted by advocacy groups requesting protection of the Aztec gilia, Clover’s cactus and Suckley’s cuckoo bumblebee.
In a petition filed in April 2020, the Center for Biological Diversity warned that the population of Suckley’s cuckoo bumblebees has declined by 90% over the last 50 years, losing half of their historic range stretching from Alaska to Northern California in the west, across Canada to far south as Colorado and as far east as Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
In addition to habitat loss from fires, the bee faces threats from disease and pesticides used to manage bark beetle infestations as well as the loss of its favorite host, the imperiled western bumblebee. The female cuckoo bumblebee infiltrates the nests of its chosen host, kills or controls the queen and makes the resident workers care for its young.
Researchers say this coup d’etat actually helps the host bees build resistance to diseases and diversify their population. The conservationists filed additional petitions to protect the imperiled western bumblebee among other species and sued when the Trump administration failed to act.
“This is a first step toward preventing the extinction of this important cuckoo bumblebee, but its survival depends on quickly getting the Endangered Species Act’s full protection,” said Dr. Tara Cornelisse, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. “These intriguing, parasitical bumblebees play an important role in maintaining the health and diversity of the bumblebee community.”
The Biden administration will also review petitions filed by WildEarth Guardians in May and June 2020 requesting listing of the Aztec gilia and Clover’s cactus as endangered or threatened due to habitat degradation under oil and gas development, livestock grazing, off-roading and climate change.
Five factors determine whether the species will be listed: habitat degradation, overuse, disease or predation, inadequate protections and “other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.”
“These factors represent broad categories of natural or human-caused actions or conditions that could have an effect on a species’ continued existence,” explained Ecological Services Program staff in the announcement.
“We will evaluate individual threats and their expected effects on the species, then analyze the cumulative effect of the threats on the species as a whole,” the agency wrote. “We also consider the cumulative effect of the threats in light of those actions and conditions that are expected to have positive effects on the species — such as any existing regulatory mechanisms or conservation efforts that may ameliorate threats.”
Data and comments may be submitted through the federal eRulemaking Portal or by mail to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.